Good-bye beautiful Wisconsin and wonderful, welcoming friends. You've been a joy and an inspiration to me, all of YOU who've gone out of your way to be kind and generous.
West Salem, Wisconsin artist Judy Thelen and I are as alike as the proverbial peas in a pod. What a strange feeling it is to walk through the door of the guest house and see piles of my favorite books everywhere. It is as though she swept through my studio and transported them to her home. Judy is also a Maineiac and grew up in the Boothbay area. Our families get together every September when Judy, Dan, Raina, Jeff (and Brandy, the labradoodle) journey to Maine for vacation.
Judy is the friend who first taught me to capture dandelion wishes in a jar. These wishes just wait on a shelf or kitchen counter until a sad child needs some love and encouragement. Then, it is off with the cap, eyes squinched closed for a wish, and a big huff. This cheers children any time they're sad–and it makes me happy just to see the dandelion puffs resting in wait.
In West Salem at the Heider Center fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club, I reconnected with lots of old friends and scores of new ones
We stayed with Deb Biechler in her craftsman bungalow in Amherst, a town I loved instantly. The first day in Amherst we visited the Tomorrow River Gallery for an art opening replete with homegrown musicians, homemade wines, and lots of lively talk.
On Saturday morning, I gave a short talk at the community center. Later that day Deb, Jeff, and a host of others made food (I never worked with so much potato salad in my life) in Deb's cozy kitchen and listened to singer-songwriter LJ: Booth play guitar and sing his original works while artist Ann Herzog Wright harmonized.
Deb Biechler, an extraordinary, love-filled kindergarten teacher, writer, and community activist, is here selling books for Dragonwings Bookstore of Waupaca after my talk in Amherst. Jeff caught a quick shot of the last of the patient ladies in line.
Yesterday we spent the afternoon at a Chautauqua gathering. Teddy Roosevelt once said that "a Chatauqua is the most American thing in America," and I must agree with him. Experts in the field of archaeology, Native American history, geology, natural history, and ecology led us on a tour of threatened and revived rivers, creeks, and lakes. My favorite area is the beautiful Tomorrow River, which runs through (and is) the heart of Amherst.
A happy kayaker on the Tomorrow River, which is being restored by Trout Unlimited
This is a native brook trout from the Tomorrow River. Look closely at the incredible dots of color; this is a rainbow in its own right. All fish were immediately returned to the river.
Our evening ended with a gathering in the old Nelsonville Mill where about 75 of us shared food, laughter, conversation, and a short talk on the native artifacts (some of which were 9,000 years old) of the area.
I didn't want to leave Amherst, but as we drove away the sky opened and a huge rainbow arced above us. I know we'll return someday to a new "home" away from home and the wide arms and big hearts of the residents.
Love from the road as we head toward the T.C. Steele Historic Site in beautiful Nashville, Brown County, Indiana. T.C. Steele was one of my favorite of the early Indiana plein air painters. It will be a joy and an honor to be a guest at the site and I hope that some of you will join us on Thursday night as I talk about "The Artist in the Garden-The Garden in the Artist."
All joys to you,
P.S. Please drop by my newest Garden Grow Along posting. Jeff and I figured out how to turn a big metal stock trough into an inexpensive, clean, portable, and farmy looking worm bin. The "Girls" love it and the mice, moles, and raccoons know they're in there, but can't reach them.
P.P.S. To find out where I'm headed next, follow my book tour by clicking here. This does not include TV appearances, which changes daily along the route.